losing the map & finding your way

Editor’s Note: This week will feature guest posts from Scoutie Girl readers. I’m thrilled to have each post on the blog. It seems there’s an underlying theme of finding your way in your creative life throughout many of these posts. I think that’s fitting considering the direction SG took in 2010. As we head into 2011, I plan to give you more concrete & practical posts on making the most of the journey.

A guest post by Sarah Early of dodeline design.

greeting card design by guest blogger sarah early, dodeline design

I am a rule follower. To a T.

I so clearly remember the day that I got a scolding for talking in my 1st grade class. The horror! As I cried buckets in the car, my mother surely thinking I’d done something terribly wrong, I finally choked out my indignation at being told I’d broken a rule.

During those same car rides, I remember her telling me that I would go to first grade, middle school, high school, and then college, if I wanted to. I knew right then that I wanted to. Later, I was convinced that colleges would be impressed that I was class president in the fifth grade.

To say I am a rule follower and life planner is by no means an exaggeration.

So that was the plan. You’re born. You go to school. You do well in school so you can go to college. And you go to college so you can get a full-time job with benefits, health insurance, and maybe at some point a car or frequent flyer miles. You work for someone else and rise through the ranks if you’re good at it.

That didn’t happen for me. Not through any fault of my own; it was mostly timing. Graduating with a design degree in May of 2009 was pretty…inopportune, shall we say? However, that didn’t make my reality any easier to swallow.

I struggled a lot during that summer with feelings of inadequacy and a sense of being lost.

What do you do when you followed all the rules and steps, and the world fell apart in the meantime? Or in the case of many of my friends and readers, what do you do when you did go the extra step, get the job, and then the job fails you?

On a hot summer day after arriving home from my part-time basically minimum wage gig, I found Etsy. I had started dabbling in freelancing because I had to find some way to pay the bills, and as it was becoming more successful, I considered turning it into a business. The problem was I had no idea how to take it any further. I didn’t know anyone who had, and I was a designer, not a business person. But finding this amazing community of people pursuing alternative lifestyles gave me the confidence to try.

So I did. And somewhere along the way it stopped being, “I’m freelancing until I find a job,” and became, “I’m doing what I love to do.”

I fell in love with the freedom, the creative control, and the endless possibilities of ditching the map and finding my way on my own.

Over a year later, I am so thankful for the way my life has gone, although I definitely wouldn’t have been able to say that to you even a year ago. I wish that we taught more entrepreneurship in our schools; because despite being the product of both private and public institutions, I didn’t really get a message throughout my school years that it was an option to work for yourself.

So go for it.

Venture out of your comfort zone and try something new. Lose the map.

I hope it helps you find your way to a fulfilling creative life.

Sarah Early is the owner/designer of dodeline design, a
graphic design studio in Charleston, SC offering print + web design as well as a quirky stationery line. Keep up with her on her blog, The Quirky Designer, follow on Twitter, or like on Facebook.

9 thoughts on “losing the map & finding your way

  1. the very same thing happened to me. I was following the path, then the path disappeared under my feet. It’s amazing and wonderful what has happened because of that though.

    Losing the map is a liberating experience. Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

  2. This was exactly what I needed. I graduated December 2009 with art and creative writing degrees and no acceptance into graduate school. I moved with my boyfriend so he could pursue his graduate degree (also in art) and got the dreaded part-time job. Now I’m determined to make my own ‘map’ in life and make this year the year I quit my icky part-time job and become a true artist. And this post has given me an extra kick of inspiration! I wish you the best of luck! You’re truly a shining star.

  3. It is so easy to relate to your story, and as I can see, not only for me. The same way you probably found Etsy, I found the internet as a business platform in general, just a few years earlier. Those are the moments that completely change our lives, show us different opportunities, and scare us to death when we realize what we are about to do.
    But once you taste the freedom, you never want to go back.

    I agree that entrepreneurship should be taught in school; or at least talking about working for yourself as something that is normal, done every day and actually a good thing. Less people would be freaking out at times like these and more people would dare to create more great things on their own.

  4. I’ve struggled with breaking out of my box and setting the rules aside, but this year, I worked really hard and make an effort to just GO for it. The freedom has been amazing. I didn’t know I could do some of things I did.

  5. Thanks for this post! I’ve been following my map (mostly, with a few rabbit trails along the way) for almost 10 years, but I realized I’ve been missing too much of the scenery. So, in 2011, I’m ditching my map and blazing a trail!

  6. I love this article. It’s so inspiring. I’ve followed all those steps, and now I’m about to incur $15,000 of debt to get my Masters degree. Why? Because that’s what I’ve been told to do after undergraduate. I wonder if life will smack me in the face like it did you?!? =)

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